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The Celts, by Wolfgang Meid

Reviewed by Celtic Scholar

Synopsis: “The Celts” – who were they? Did they really exist, or are they as some archaeologists seem to believe, a mere scientific construct, a fictitious entity? The basis of this misapprehension is the fact that it is not possible to diagnose Celticity by archaeological means alone. “Celtic” is, in the first instance, a linguistic concept, and disregarding this linguistic foundation must lead to an impasse. It is the proven relationship of the so-called “Celtic” languages and their derivation from a common ancestor which justifies this scientific concept.

“Celts”, on the other hand, is an ethnic term attested for population groups in western Continental Europe, but which has been extended to include also population groups in the British Isles for which this name is not attested. The basis of this terminological extension has been the discovery of the genetic relationship of the languages spoken by all these groups, which consequently have been termed “Celtic” languages, going back to a common prehistoric ancestor language termed “Proto-Celtic”, a distinct branch of the Indo-European language family. Since a language presupposes speakers, those could be called “Celts”. From a linguistic point of view these “Celts” were real people; today their descendants would be rather called by other names, like Irish or Welsh.

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